The Cliffs of Insanity: Kindness Shouldn’t Make You a Doormat

Lily James as Cinderella, in one of her few moments of doing what she wants. Image via Walt Disney Co.

Hello and welcome to this week’s adventures climbing the cliffs of insanity. This week, I ponder why the kindness displayed in Big Hero 6 and Disney’s new live action Cinderella struck me so differently, Wonder Woman gets a new costume as DC doubles down on stabby things, and, down at the bottom of the post, you’ll see a Goodreads widget to win one of my books in softcover. Enter fast, as the giveaway ends tonight, March 13. 

But first, the virtues of kindness and how they’re perceived differently for men and women.

The twins, now 15, came with me to a press screening of Cinderella last week. I had no preconceptions about what this new movie would be like, though I hoped the fairytale had been updated for modern times. Instead, what we watched was essentially a live-action version of the animated film from 1950. It entertained all of us, save for a slow beginning, and any movie with Derek Jacobi and Richard Madden (Robb Stark) can’t be all bad. Plus, Lily James did a fine job with the title role.

But the story itself bothers me for reasons I couldn’t articulate at first.

I thought of how much I loved Baymax’s kindness in Big Hero 6 and how that story taught Hiro that violence and rage aren’t the answer. So why did Cinderella’s kindness in the face of a stepmother who hated her and stepsisters who dismissed her make me so angry?

The answer is that Baymax exists to help Hiro deal with his anger and grief. Hiro’s story is that he must control his darker emotions and become a hero. Also, Baymax doesn’t stand by and do what Hiro asks him to do. He becomes involved, literally pushing his way into Hiro’s life.

In contrast, Cinderella’s story showed the death of her parents and her home being turned into a virtual prison. Her reaction? Just let them because it’s… courageous? All Cinderella has to do is to exist, let her innate goodness shine through, and all will be well.

Kindness is why the Prince falls in love with Cinderella and why the Fairy Godmother (wonderfully played by Helena Bonham Carter) gives Cinderella the night off and the dress. Cinderella has no character journey. She’s the same lovely girl at the end of the story as she was at the beginning.

Cinderella the movie tells us that women should be kind and deal with all sorts of horrible things, and if they do and just wait around, good things will happen. If you believe that, perhaps there’s this bridge in Brooklyn I can sell you.

Worse, Cinderella isn’t kind at the end. Yes, she forgives her stepmother, but that gesture is hollow because the narration informs us that the woman and her daughters have been banished from the kingdom. Now, that’s cruel because these three women have no means of supporting themselves and while the stepmother may have earned her fate, the daughters knew no better. Aside: How did Cate Blanchett manage to somehow make me sympathize with the stepmother in several scenes? Possibly because the character’s fear came through.

Cinderella could have been shown being proactive and won over her stepsisters’ allegiance at the end through kindness. That would have made her more proactive, kept the fairytale mostly intact, and made the kindness into a superpower of sorts, as Baymax does.

Alas, that’s not the movie we get.


Onto Another Princess… One Who Seems to Never Traffic in Kindness Anymore

Page 1 of a Children's board book about Wonder Woman.
Page 1 of a children’s board book about Wonder Woman. WW copyright DC Comics.
The new Wonder Woman costume coming in April. Image via DC Comics
The new Wonder Woman costume coming in April. Image via DC Comics.

When I said DC seemed to consider Wonder Woman “Princess McStabby Sword,” that wasn’t a suggestion. I was being ironic. And yet here’s the new Wonder Woman costume, beginning in April. First thing I noticed: Why does she look so angry?

Second thing I noticed: Why does she have two swords now? Has she been watching Wolverine: Origins?

The rest of the costume is a bit busy, but mostly fine. But this is not Wonder Woman. It’s some angry warrior who seems ready to poke out your eyes.

I want the Wonder Woman from the first image. This is from the introductory page of a children’s board book. In three short sentences, it provides young readers with a perfect encapsulation of Princess Diana. If a children’s book knows who Wonder Woman is, why doesn’t DC Comics?

Moving Onto a Prince
Ghost Phoenix is the third book in my Phoenix Institute superhero series and the one that features a lost prince from history as the hero. I like to think the heroine is kind. But her journey in the book is to stop being a doormat for her family and create her own path in the world. That’s my version of the fairytale.

How to Keep Social Media from Eating Your Life

Image: Fran Wilde
Image: Fran Wilde

Let me be the first to say it: This is kind of a horse-has-left-the-barn post for me. My day looks like I ran smack into the opening credits for The Matrix. That’s in part because what social media sites do is incredibly powerful: They unite communities across great gaps of space.

For those of you who still have a life to save from the ever-present pings of social media, I’ve got five quick tips for keeping the information onslaught at bay.

Here’s why doing so is important: Your time and presence are valuable to the folks at Twitter, Facebook, GooglePlus, Instagram, Goodreads, and all of the rest. They need that time and they think they need it more than *you* need it. That’s why they’re set up to email you about every change and update. They’re lonely. They need you. Please write.

Truth is, they’re not lonely. They just wouldn’t exist without you. (Well, Twitter might devolve to a bunch of Oscar Wilde* bots sending messages back and forth.)

But guess what? They’re all programs, designed to do one thing beyond all others: Whenever you get out, they try to pull you back in.

So here are a few ways to keep them from eating your life (some of which you may already be familiar with, but they’re worth revisiting)–allowing you to enjoy social media sites when you’re ready, but don’t feel the need to come running every time they call.

  1. Digests. Digests are your BFF. Every chance you get, whether it’s on a message board for a favorite interest or group, or a book site, go into your profile and find where they’ve stuck the “send me updates every:” followed by radio buttons with increments like “five minutes,” “daily,” and “weekly.” (this is usually in “notifications” or “emails”.) Checking a desired time frame will keep messages from coming to your inbox every time your nephew updates his status; instead, you’ll get a collected, shortened version, in one handy packet.

    Sample settings. Image: Fran Wilde
  2. Never.  Along with the daily and weekly updates, there’s another choice for how often you are notified about new things: never. You can elect to only see updates for certain sites when you choose to visit them. This is totally freeing, though you may miss out on some news because of the next thing.
  3. Filters. Facebook infamously filters what you see when you’re on the site, based on some mystery algorithm that brings you cat photos while hiding birth announcements and posts about your best friend who moved away coming back for a visit. But you, too, can play the filter game on most social media sites–you can select to always see items from “family” or “inner circle” members that you designate.

    Sample settings. Image: Fran Wilde
  4. Social Fixer, HootSuite, etc. Tools like Social Fixer and HootSuite allow you even greater control over what you see. You can plug in a number of filters on Social Fixer (donations welcome); you can manage multiple social media accounts on HootSuite (for a fee). It feels funny that we’re using overlays to control rampant problems in information flow on sites that are supposedly all about us… but that’s for another post.
    This saves me. Daily. Image: Fran Wilde


  5. A babysitter for your eyeballs. Can’t keep yourself from checking twitfaceboogle while you’re supposed to be writing that article on Social Media management? (ahem.) Or your next book? (COUGH.) Check out Anti-Social 1.0. Once you’ve downloaded it, put in a list of sites, set a timer, push start, and whammo, those sites aren’t available for the length of time you set. Don’t think you need this? Give it a try and see how many times in an hour you actually try to “just check what’s going on.” Better, realize the power of taking back control over when you do check. I’m going to go set mine for an hour right now.

*no relation

Procrastination Destination

Image By Rebecca Angel
Image By Rebecca Angel

Housework would never get done if it weren’t for procrastination. It’s amazing how important the organization of the spice cabinet is when I have a writing deadline. But the internet gives me so many, many ways to distract myself from the task at hand. YouTube, of course, is a favorite land of Time Suck. Check out my previous post for some great channels.

GoodReads feels like I’m doing something important because it’s all about books, and reading makes you smart! Except I’m not reading them while I’m on the site, I’m reading reviews, and commenting, and re-starring books because how could I have given this book five stars when that other book that’s so way better is only four stars?

Continue reading Procrastination Destination

GeekMom Book Club: The Eyre Affair–Week 1

The Eyre Affair by Jaspe Fforde
The Eyre Affair by Jaspe Fforde

March came to a close and so did our GeekMom Book Club’s first book selection, The Hobbit. GeekMom Mandy did a tremendous job leading our discussion board on Goodreads and we received a lot of great responses. Amongst other things, Mandy and our readers discussed their own adventures, but one adventure stood out from the rest: Reader Bettina had her baby on the bathroom floor at home two months ago! Whew! If you missed out on that and more, you can review Mandy’s discussion topics for week 1, week 2, week 3, week 4, and week 5!

I will be taking over the Book Club this month and I’m really excited to discuss April’s book selection! In mid-March, we opened a poll so you could all participate in choosing our next book. The choices were The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, and two selections by GeekMom editors:Pilgrim of the Sky by Natania Barron and Phoenix Rising by Corrina Lawson. The Eyre Affair won, so here I am knee-deep in affairs of the Eyre kind because of you.

All jokes aside, I am really pleased with the book so far. I think you will all love the protagonist, she is one tough cookie. And in case you saw “Eyre” in the title and were afraid that Jane Eyre was a prerequisite for reading The Eyre Affair, rest assured it is not. The book is definitively tailored to the classic lit geek, but I have absolutely zero classic English literature knowledge and I’m still enjoying the book just fine!

Because we only have one month, I’ll jump right in with a question to get you going! Don’t worry, this question shouldn’t spoil the story for you.

  • Question: While in the hospital, Thursday is visited by her future-self who instructs her to take a job in another town without so much as a reason why and then disappears. Thursday followed the instructions without one hint of doubt. Even in a world where time travel is possible, would you have blindly followed instructions from your future-self?

Go buy the book, read the first quarter, and answer my question on the GeekMom Goodreads page! We’ll be discussing The Eyre Affair on GeekMom every Monday for the next four weeks, then start a new book on April 3oth. Happy reading!

A GeekMom’s 34 Goals for 2012

Number 17 on my list of goals: Have one thriving crop. This mutant carrot is the outcome of my last gardening attempt. Photo by Cathe Post.

A friend of mine recently published her professional website after months of preparation. One of her premier posts shared 30 things she would like to do this year in honor of turning 30. It’s not a milestone birthday year for me, but the idea made sense. In an effort to set reasonable goals instead of unattainable demands, I’m going to follow in IndieKate‘s blog-steps and create a 34 in 2012 list. Here it goes…

  1. Work on getting in shape – I just signed up for Fitocracy so I can log all of my Dance Central time in Workout Mode.
  2. Keep up with my blog – I would like to share more on my personal blog than a log of articles I write for GeekMom. Some blogs I read just share one moment from the day that their readers can identify with. I’d like to do the same, if I’m not cleaning up the mess from said moment…
  3. Social Butterfly – I want to put myself out there more. I am on PinterestFacebookTwitterGoodreads and Google +. I hope to cross share through all of these platforms at least once a week.
  4. Keep up with Phineas and Ferb this summer – There is a calendar. I printed it for my daughter last summer and we only did about a third of the things that we wrote on it (let alone the ideas that came with it).
  5. Watch less TV – My husband would probably not understand this one. I listen to Netflix shows while I’m on the computer. If I listened to audiobooks or podcasts instead, I would probably be better off.
  6. Read More – I HATE reading. Due to my astigmatism, I end up reading the same line in a book multiple times before getting past it. It makes book reading less than fun. It’s “better” now that we have a Kindle Fire, because I can show one paragraph per page and increase the font size, but it still hurts my eyes – I have to really be interested in the book.
  7. Learn at least one more of my husband’s miniature games – I played Warhammer Fantasy with my husband for a year. It was great fun. But, I played the season, won the tournament (and a really cool sword) and left it at that. So now I should catch up and learn Blood BowlHell Dorado, and Dystopian Wars.
  8. Learn an activity with my daughter – I don’t care if it’s Heroclix or something non-geeky – we had a lot of fun learning Pokémon together (have you heard the recent GeekMom podcast?). Mother/daughter bonding is good.
  9. Earn my Tournament Organizer’s title for Pokémon – Since I keep running computers for Pokémon tournaments, I really should have a copy of the program on my computer. In order to have that, I need to earn my stripes!
  10. Drink water – 8 glasses a day…blah…blah…blah…
  11. GeekMom – The responsibilities of a core contributor on GeekMom are not unreasonable, and yet I find myself fighting to keep up from time to time. I would like to work to 125% of what is required, because GeekMom is a great community to be part of. I keep find myself saying, “That would make a great article.” So, sit down and write the article already!
  12. Pre-school – This would be a goal for later in the year. As my youngest nears turning three, I look at the pre-school choices and cringe. The idea of teaching him myself is daunting, but doable – and he’d love it.
  13. Eat more veggies – I eat veggies twice a day on a good day. I could be better about it.
  14. Ride my bike – Even riding my bike once this summer would be more than I did last year.
  15. Edit out the virtual garbage – This would include cleaning out the backup hard drive, deleting old documents, and having everything backed up and organized in one location…instead of three.
  16. Make headway in the yard – We put in a playground (swings and a slide thanks to my parents) this last summer. We have a small rectangular backyard. I would like a third of it to be raised gardens and a stone oven for baking pizza/bread, a third lawn, and a third playground. It means DOING IT.
  17. Have one crop thrive – I have a black thumb. Enough said.
  18. Go back to church – I haven’t been in a year. Again, if I make it once this year, it will be a step in the right direction.
  19. Vote – I missed our last local election and felt guilty about it for weeks. If you don’t vote, you don’t have a right to complain about how your taxes are spent.
  20. Date – My husband. I need to make that clear. I have known my husband since 1993. We started dating in 1998, and were married in 2003. Several times we’ve misplaced the romance. We seem to find it if we can go on a date.
  21. Pet the cats – Isn’t it scientifically proven that animals can reduce stress levels? I have four cats, so I should be four times less stressed, right?
  22. ADHD – I need to learn all I can about this. My daughter was diagnosed with it, and I think it is a HUGE source of the behavior issues we have had in the last three years. Learning how to help her deal with her symptoms will be a relief.
  23. Remain close to my parents – I am an only child. My parents live less than 5 miles away. I have tried very hard to be there for them this year as my mom has taken on difficult volunteer tasks and my dad has undergone chemotherapy. This year can only be better for them, right?
  24. Have a cemented financial plan – Being in a one income household is hard. I am thankful that my husband’s job provides a roof over our head and food on the table. GeekMom Judy Berna had a similar resolution this year.
  25. Learn how to fix one thing – My husband is very handy. He cooks, he sews, he fixes the stuff that needs fixing. Just once I should take initiative and learn to do it myself instead of asking him.
  26. Attempt to potty train – My 2-year-old wants to do everything his sister does. So, perhaps this summer I will have the guts to attempt to teach him how to use the potty. Isn’t it as easy as throwing cheerios in the toilet and having them do target practice?
  27. Write a book with my daughter – She loves drawing and telling stories. It would probably be a great geeky story – an epic tale even!
  28. Start a video podcast – The hubby and I have been watching Hank and Katherine Play Super Mario Brothers Wii! on YouTube. Where my husband is inspired to play his ukulele and make videos someday like the DoubleclicksMolly Lewis, or Pomplamoose, I want to make a board game blog. We shall see if I can get anyone to help me – I can’t really play board games by myself.
  29. Brush up on my sign language – I used to be fluent, but if you don’t use it, you lose it.
  30. Run a D&D campaign – I don’t know that RPG Kids would count. But I would run a one-shot game in a heartbeat.
  31. Add to my client base – It would be nice to have a couple more clients to tutor in the art of running a computer.
  32. Make one item out of one of my craft books – Complete a large fiber project  (like an afghan) or a project from a craft book. I have a shelf full of craft/fiber books that are fun to look at, but I haven’t done anything other than look at them. I have done a few projects from the GeekDad books, but I want to complete ALL OF THEM.
  33. Do one Arduino project – This is an intelligence challenge. Can I be smarter than the programming language? (I wasn’t in college – that’s for sure).
  34. Enter one photography show – Just one. Just enough of a commitment that I have to attempt to take artsy-fartsy shots throughout the year.

I don’t think this list is unattainable. It will take some work, but there isn’t one thing on this list I can’t finish (maybe 33, but I will at least attempt it). What are your goals for 2012? Do you have some of the same crazy plans as I do?